What is the role of leadership in good governance? Is it important? Does it even matter?
If we think about governance as: ‘the systems and processes within an organisation that ensure its Purpose, Values, Vision and Mission remain at the heart of everything it does, while ensuring good practice and compliance in the areas of strategy, risk, and finance’… it sounds fairly structural, doesn’t it? A bit dull and two dimensional? You may well ask: ‘but where are the people in all this?’
Well, I think THAT is where leadership comes in! Leadership is all about people. It is about supporting people, it is about managing people, it is about getting the best out of them and having them feel motivated to do their best. I really see leadership as being about taking people on a journey with you, not because you tell them they have to come along, but because they want to come along with you.
Leading by example
Setting the example by demonstrating good governance practice – walking the talk if you like – is an example of how good leadership and good governance intersect. This shows others around you not only what and how to do things that ensure good governance for your organisation, but it also shows people that those things ARE important insofar as YOU take them seriously enough to do them properly. And you know the old saying about ‘what gets measured gets managed’…well it’s a bit like that…if you are consistently modelling good practice, people see it around them on a daily basis, and it becomes part of the fabric of the organisation.
Setting the culture
The Board needs to set the tone for the culture of the organisation, and modelling behaviours that are consistent with and reinforce that culture is another example of how good leadership furthers good governance. It’s a case of we are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain, so we need to ensure we set the standard of appropriate behaviour in how we conduct ourselves, and in doing so, hopefully inspire others to do the same. In short – live your Code of Conduct!
Keeping people accountable (including yourself!) to the organisation’s values, and the standards of behaviour they set, is important too. Remember that the standard we walk past is the standard we accept. We all make mistakes sometimes, so if someone does have a lapse, be open and honest about it, and address it appropriately, as our mistakes give us an opportunity to learn. This also reinforces that these things ARE important, and that we should do our best to uphold them. And if it is your own mistake that you are addressing, share it with others if possible, as not only does this give them a chance to learn from your mistake, but your honesty and your sharing of your fallibility builds trust amongst the people you lead.
Who is a leader?
Leadership is not necessarily about someone’s position or role within an organisation. Anyone can lead by example, anyone can contribute to setting the organisation’s culture through their behaviour, and anyone can support accountability within their organisation – in fact the more ‘leaders’ we have throughout all levels of our organisation, the more strongly these elements will be embedded within it.
These are just a few key examples of how the interplay between governance and leadership is clearly undeniable – the two are inextricably linked, and good leadership is clearly a key pillar of good governance.
So, yes, leadership does matter in governance. In fact, I would say it is critical to GOOD governance.